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AODA Alliance Writes New Minister Responsible for Implementing and Enforcing the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act to Urge Priorities for Prompt Action

ACCESSIBILITY FOR ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT ALLIANCE UPDATE UNITED FOR A BARRIER-FREE ONTARIO
August 14, 2014

SUMMARY

On August 14, 2014, the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance wrote Mr. Brad Duguid, the new Ontario Minister for Economic Development, Employment and Infrastructure. He is the new Ontario cabinet minister with lead responsibility for implementing and enforcing the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act.

In our letter, set out below, we identify seven priorities for immediate action to get Ontario back on schedule for full accessibility by 2025, as the AODA requires:

1. Immediately announcing, implementing and accounting to the public on a strong, detailed plan for effectively enforcing the AODA

2. Developing and promptly enacting the next accessibility standards under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act

3. Effectively ensuring that in any government infrastructure spending, no barriers against Ontarians with disabilities are created or perpetuated

4. Incorporating disability accessibility in all his ministry’s economic development, and employment strategies, programs and initiatives

5. Ensuring that the 2015 Toronto Pan/Parapan American games leave behind a substantial legacy of disability accessibility

6. Launching an effective public education campaign on disability accessibility and the AODA’s requirements

7. Promptly making public and responding to the forthcoming report of the Moran AODA independent review

In recent years, whenever a new minister has taken on responsibility for the AODA, we have found it helpful to offer the minister a list of priorities such as this, to help the new minister and his or her staff get up to speed.

Just last week, we received a letter from Minister Duguid, dated August 8, 2014. We set it out below. Back on May 2, 2014, we had written the previous minister, Dr. Eric Hoskins, to ask for specific information on the AODA’s implementation and enforcement. Because later that day the election was announced, Dr. Hoskins declined to answer that letter.

In his August 8, 2014 letter to us, Minister Duguid refers to our May 2, 2014 request for information, but does not provide the information we had requested. Our August 14, 2014 letter explains that we still want and need that information.

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MORE DETAILS

Text of the AODA Alliance’s August 14, 2014 Letter to Economic Development, Employment and Infrastructure Minister Brad Duguid

ACCESSIBILITY FOR ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT ALLIANCE
1929 Bayview Avenue,
Toronto, Ontario M4G 3E8
Email aodafeedback@gmail.com Twitter: @aodaalliance http://www.aodaalliance.org

August 14, 2014

Via Email: brad.duguid@ontario.ca

Hon. Brad Duguid,
Minister of Economic Development, Employment & Infrastructure Hearst Block
900 Bay St, 8th Floor
Toronto ON M7A 2E1

Dear Minister,

Re: Ensuring Ontario Becomes fully Accessible to Ontarians with Disabilities by 2025

I write on behalf of the AODA Alliance. We congratulate you on your appointment as Ontario’s Minister of Economic Development, Employment and Infrastructure. Your portfolio includes the lead responsibility for effectively implementing and enforcing the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act 2005.

Our non-partisan coalition looks forward to working together with you on ensuring the prompt and effective implementation and enforcement of that legislation. The AODA requires Ontario to become fully accessible to all persons with disabilities by 2025.

You are in a vital position to determine whether the AODA will make a huge difference for over 1.8 million Ontarians who now have a disability, and for the millions of other Ontarians who will get a disability later on in their lives. In the recent Ontario election, Premier Wynne committed to Ontario becoming “the most accessible and inclusive region in the world.” The last minister responsible for the AODA, Dr. Eric Hoskins, said many times that disability accessibility is a “top priority” for him and for your Government.

Ontario is now clearly behind schedule for achieving full accessibility by 2025. We prove this in great detail in our June 30, 2014 brief to the Independent Review of the AODA, that your Government appointed University of Toronto Dean Mayo Moran to conduct. That brief is well known to your Ministry staff.

Our brief shows that for the first years after your Government enacted the AODA in 2005, progress on its implementation began at a good rate. However, after those first years, and especially after the summer of 2011, things have slowed to a snail’s pace. We need your help to kick-start action.

We recommend that you have your Ministry brief you thoroughly on our brief’s analysis and its recommendations. It describes what has been done to date to achieve the AODA’s goals, where action has fallen short. It provides an affordable and practical roadmap on what needs to be done to get back on schedule for full accessibility by 2025.

Some may advise you to simply sit back and wait for Dean Moran’s report. We look forward to her report, and will welcome a chance to explore her recommendations. However, we strongly urge your Government not to just passively wait for Dean Moran’s report. We cannot afford any further delay. You should plan for action now, while enriching your plans when you receive Dean Moran’s recommendations in the next weeks. You can download our June 30, 2014 brief to the Mayo Moran AODA Independent Review by visiting http://www.aodaalliance.org/strong-effective-aoda/06302014-Final-Brief-Mayo-Moran-AODA.doc When your Government enacted the AODA, it gave Ontario fully twenty years to achieve full accessibility, and for the Ontario Government to lead our province to that destination. Just a little over ten years now remain for Ontario to reach that mandatory goal. We need decisive new action now, including action that has been promised for months or years. In this letter we offer key priorities that we urge you and your Ministry to act upon.

It is helpful to you and us that in the 2012-2013 Ontario Liberal Party leadership campaign, Kathleen Wynne made strong written commitments to us. In her December 3, 2012 letter to the AODA Alliance, she committed to:

* fully maintain the implementation of the AODA 2005 and the Ontarians with Disabilities Act 2001, and not weaken or reduce any provisions or protections in that legislation or regulations enacted under them, or any policies, practices, strategies or initiatives of or within the Ontario Government that exist to implement them or achieve their objectives.

* stand by and fully honour the past commitments that the Ontario Liberal Party has made to Ontarians with disabilities regarding disability accessibility.

* ensure that Ontario is on schedule for full accessibility for persons with disabilities no later than 2025 requires.

* continue the practice of making specific election commitments on the issue of achieving a fully accessible province for persons with disabilities, in letters to the AODA Alliance.

* personally meet with AODA Alliance representatives to discuss accessibility issues, in addition to meetings with appropriate cabinet ministers.

Here are the top priorities we urge upon you. We have been urging these in various forms upon the two immediately previous cabinet ministers who had lead responsibility for implementing and enforcing the AODA, Dr. Eric Hoskins and John Milloy. Your Ministry and the Premier’s Office are fully briefed on these.

1. Immediately Announcing, Implementing and Accounting to the Public on a Strong, Detailed Plan for Effectively Enforcing the AODA

There are two enforceable accessibility standards on the books under the AODA. These are the Integrated Accessibility Standard (which addresses barriers in transportation, employment and information, communication and in public spaces) and the Customer Service Accessibility Standard. In the 2003 and 2011 elections, former Premier McGuinty promised that your Government’s Disabilities Act would be effectively enforced. However, the Government has not yet effectively deployed the enforcement powers it enshrined in the AODA. As the minister responsible for the AODA, you are the AODA’s “Enforcer-in-chief.”

Obligated organizations cannot be expected to take this law seriously if it is not effectively enforced. Part II of our June 30, 2014 brief to the Mayo Moran AODA Independent Review documents the lack of effective AODA enforcement, our efforts to get this law enforced and our recommendations for action.

On November 18, 2013 we made public, and the Toronto Star reported shocking information that took us over ten months to unearth from the Government. The Government had known for months that fully 70% of Ontario private sector organizations with at least 20 employees had not complied with the AODA’s self-reporting requirement, even ten months after the December 31, 2012 deadline. Yet the Government was not effectively enforcing this law, despite having ample unused funds on hand for this, despite knowing of this high rate of AODA violations, despite having ample statutory enforcement powers, and despite having an internal enforcement plan on hand that the Ontario Public Service had prepared. The minimal enforcement efforts that have been deployed since then, as disclosed publicly, have only focused on one of the requirements under the Customer Service Accessibility Standard, the duty of private sector organizations with at least 20 employees to file an accessibility self-report. As far as we have been told, the Government has not been enforcing any other requirements under the Customer Service Accessibility Standard to actually provide accessible customer service, or any requirements under the Integrated Accessibility Standard Regulation (including obligations that went into effect fully three years ago).

Fully six months ago, on February 20, 2014, the Toronto Star reported that your Government said it would make public a plan for the AODA’s enforcement “in short order.” Since then, none has been made public. During the recent Ontario election, Premier Wynne told us in writing that the promised enforcement plan could not be released during the election campaign. Even were that so, two months have passed since that election campaign ended. We have still not seen the promised enforcement plan.

2. Developing and Promptly Enacting the Next Accessibility Standards under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act

There are two enforceable accessibility standards on the books under the AODA. These are the Integrated Accessibility Standard (which addresses barriers in transportation, employment and information, communication and in public spaces) and the Customer Service Accessibility Standard. In the 2003 and 2011 elections, former Premier McGuinty promised that your Government’s Disabilities Act would be effectively enforced. However, the Government has not yet effectively deployed the enforcement powers it enshrined in the AODA. As the minister responsible for the AODA, you are the AODA’s “Enforcer-in-chief.”

Obligated organizations cannot be expected to take this law seriously if it is not effectively enforced. Part II of our June 30, 2014 brief to the Mayo Moran AODA Independent Review documents the lack of effective AODA enforcement, our efforts to get this law enforced and our recommendations for action.

On November 18, 2013 we made public, and the Toronto Star reported shocking information that took us over ten months to unearth from the Government. The Government had known for months that fully 70% of Ontario private sector organizations with at least 20 employees had not complied with the AODA’s self-reporting requirement, even ten months after the December 31, 2012 deadline. Yet the Government was not effectively enforcing this law, despite having ample unused funds on hand for this, despite knowing of this high rate of AODA violations, despite having ample statutory enforcement powers, and despite having an internal enforcement plan on hand that the Ontario Public Service had prepared. The minimal enforcement efforts that have been deployed since then, as disclosed publicly, have only focused on one of the requirements under the Customer Service Accessibility Standard, the duty of private sector organizations with at least 20 employees to file an accessibility self-report. As far as we have been told, the Government has not been enforcing any other requirements under the Customer Service Accessibility Standard to actually provide accessible customer service, or any requirements under the Integrated Accessibility Standard Regulation (including obligations that went into effect fully three years ago).

Fully six months ago, on February 20, 2014, the Toronto Star reported that your Government said it would make public a plan for the AODA’s enforcement “in short order.” Since then, none has been made public. During the recent Ontario election, Premier Wynne told us in writing that the promised enforcement plan could not be released during the election campaign. Even were that so, two months have passed since that election campaign ended. We have still not seen the promised enforcement plan.

2. Developing and Promptly Enacting the Next Accessibility Standards under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act

The AODA’s main way for ensuring that Ontario becomes fully accessible by 2025 is by requiring the Government to develop, enact and enforce strong and effective accessibility standards. Accessibility standards are supposed to spell out in detail what barriers must be removed and prevented, what action must be taken, and by when, for both public and private sector organizations.

It is essential for the Government to now identify the next accessibility standards to be developed and enacted under the AODA, to decide all of the remaining accessibility standards to be created after that, and to get all of them enacted before the end of the Government’s new term in office. Part IV of our brief to the Moran AODA Independent Review details our unsuccessful efforts to get the Government to develop new accessibility standards, the Government’s actions to date, and steps needed now. We have been urging the Government for several years to get to work developing additional accessibility standards.

The AODA accessibility standards that have been enacted to date, while helpful, do not address anywhere near the full range of barriers that need to be removed or prevented to ensure that Ontario becomes fully accessible by 2025. The AODA requires the Government to enact all the accessibility standards needed to ensure that Ontario becomes fully accessible by 2025.

For over three years, we have urged the Government to designate the next three accessibility standards to address barriers in health care, in education and in residential housing. In the Government’s last term, from October 2011 to June 2014, no decision was made on which new accessibility standards to make. The Government is taking longer to decide which accessibility standards to make next than it takes to actually develop an entire accessibility standard.

The decision on which new accessibility standards to develop lies with you as the minister responsible for the AODA. Please quickly announce the next standards to develop, and direct the Accessibility Standards Advisory Council ASAC to get right to work on developing them.

In her May 14, 2014 letter to us, setting out your Party’s 2014 accessibility election pledges, Premier Wynne wrote:

“The next accessibility standard we will develop will focus on education and/or health.”

Two weeks after the Premier wrote us during the election campaign, we received a stronger election commitment from the Liberal Party. On May 31, 2014, we received two tweets from Ontario Liberal candidate, Cabinet minister, and former president of the Ontario Liberal Party, Yasir Naqvi. He said that a Liberal Government, if re-elected, would create a standard for both health care and education. His two May 31, 2014 tweets, separately sent to both the AODA Alliance and to its chair, David Lepofsky, stated:

“Yasir Naqvi: @DavidLepofsky Yes, the next accessibility standard a re-elected @OntLiberal will develop will focus on education and health standards.”

And

“Yasir Naqvi: @aodaalliance Yes, the next accessibility standard a re-elected @OntLiberal will develop will focus on education & health standards.”

We immediately made this public. We announced this development on Twitter and in our May 31, 2014 AODA Alliance Update. We stated:

“Tweets are on the public record. We will hold the Liberal Party to this new, strengthened commitment. We know the parties track Twitter activity on the election, including ours.”

We tweeted back to confirm this both to Mr. Naqvi and to Premier Wynne. No one denied or tried to walk back this commitment. We hold the Government to it.

We therefore ask you to designate both education and health care as topics for the next accessibility standards. Persons with disabilities should not have to choose between having access to health care but not education, or education, but not health care.

Please also now fulfill the Government’s July 2009 promise to address built environment barriers in existing buildings (not undergoing major renovations) and in residential housing, via a new AODA accessibility standard. To do this, you should direct ASAC to develop a new accessibility standard to address those barriers.

As Part IV of our brief to the Moran AODA Independent Review documents, the Government promised in July 2009 that it would address barriers in the built environment in existing buildings not undergoing major renovation, and in residential housing through the standards development process, once it finished with the first phase of developing a Built Environment Accessibility Standard. The Government finished that first phase at the end of 2013. Yet to date, no action has been undertaken of which we are aware, to begin developing an AODA accessibility standard to address built environment barriers in those existing buildings and in residential housing.

We also ask you to replicate the Government’s December 2013 Ontario Building Code accessibility amendments in an AODA accessibility standard. This will ensure that they can be effectively enforced under the AODA, and not just under the Ontario Building Code. We have been asking the Government to do this for over two years. We have to date received no answer.

ASAC will soon be presenting you with its final proposal for revisions to the 2007 AODA Customer Service Accessibility Standard, if it has not already done so. We urge you to effectively consult the public, including persons with disabilities, on any proposals that ASAC brings forward, and to enact amendments to strengthen that weak accessibility standard as soon as possible.

Once you announce the next standards to develop, you should consult on, and decide on all other remaining standards that must be enacted to ensure that Ontario reaches full accessibility by 2025. Those standards need to all be identified, developed and enacted before the next Ontario general election, if the 2025 deadline for full accessibility is to be reached, as Premier Wynne promised it would be.

3. Effectively Ensuring that in any Government Infrastructure Spending, No Barriers against Ontarians with Disabilities are Created or Perpetuated

We were delighted to learn that Premier Wynne decided after the June 2014 election to incorporate the Ministry of Infrastructure into your Ministry. As Part VII of our brief to the Moran AODA Independent Review demonstrates, we have been trying for well over five years to get the Government to ensure that when it builds or contributes to the financing of any infrastructure in Ontario, whether that infrastructure is physical, electronic, or otherwise, no barriers against persons with disabilities are created or perpetuated. Despite helpful Government promises, we have not seen sufficient action on this score.

In her May 14, 2014 letter to us sent to us as part of the recent election campaign, Premier Wynne promised:

“11. We will continue to ensure that taxpayer dollars are not used to create or perpetuate barriers against Ontarians with disabilities. Our current mandate fully supports responsible governance and we will continue to pursue objectives that align with this belief.”

Fortunately, you are now the minister responsible for both the AODA’s implementation and enforcement, and for the Government’s infrastructure spending. You are therefore uniquely well-positioned to break down the silos in the Ontario Government that have prevented effective progress on this front.

We urge you to direct the Government’s infrastructure officials to review Part VII of our brief to the Moran AODA Independent Review, and to implement our recommendations. We also urge you to direct that the Accessibility Directorate of Ontario, which reports to you, now be fully integrated into all the work of your Ministry’s infrastructure officials, to help prevent any barrier-creation or perpetuation through the Government’s infrastructure spending.

We will be presenting a similar priority to the Premier, the President of the Treasury Board and the Minister of Government Services, regarding the use of the Government’s procurement spending.

4. Incorporating Disability Accessibility in All your Ministry’s Economic Development, and Employment Strategies, Programs and Initiatives

Please capitalize on and build upon the Premier’s February 2013 decision (which we applauded) to move lead responsibility for the AODA to you and your Ministry. Your predecessor, Dr. Eric Hoskins, promised over a year ago, on May 28, 2013, that your ministry would incorporate disability accessibility as a prominent part of all of your Ministry’s strategies, programs and initiatives for promoting Ontario’s economic development and employment. In the Legislature, he stated:

“It means that the goal of greater accessibility must be integrated into all that we do as a ministry, and I have instructed my ministry to do just that. This is something our government is strongly committed to.”

For example, your Ministry and its programs should effectively and proactively promote Ontario’s public and private sectors to produce world-leading goods, services and facilities that incorporate universal design principles so that all can use and benefit from them, including persons with disabilities. This would substantially expand Ontario’s international market for its goods and services. The large unmet international demand for accessible goods, services and facilities continues to grow. The U.S.A., the European Union and other global markets are continuing to ramp up their commitments to accessibility.

Your Ministry should secure accessibility commitments, beyond those which AODA accessibility standards require, as a condition of an Ontario organization receiving a grant or loan from the various economic development grants that your Ministry oversees. Among applicants for those grants and loans, your Government should make it widely known that it will give priority to applicants that make the strongest accessibility commitments to go beyond the requirements in AODA accessibility standards.

In her May 14, 2014 letter to us during the 2014 election, Premier Wynne committed:

“The Ministry of Economic Development, Trade and Employment as the government’s lead for the Accessibility Directorate of Ontario has created a new position in its Ministry, a Director of Accessibility Integration and Planning, to work within the Ministry to ensure that accessibility is integrated into all business practices.”

We demonstrate in Part X of our brief to the Moran AODA Independent Review that to date, the Government has not announced concrete action to show that it has effectively integrated accessibility into all of your Ministry’s programs. We ask your ministry to now implement and publicize a concerted and comprehensive strategy for incorporating accessibility of goods, services, facilities and employment as an integral part of all your economic development and employment activities. It should be a clear, vocal and visible part of your outreach to and collaboration with business in Ontario. Persons with disabilities are a huge market, numbering at least one billion people around the world.

As well, while your Ministry fosters the expansion of employment in Ontario, it must ensure that this includes substantially expanding employment opportunities for persons with disabilities. They have historically faced unemployment rates that are cruel multiples of the national average.

The Ontario workplace of five years from now will be fully accessible to employees with disabilities only if effective efforts are deployed now to achieve this. The employment accessibility provisions of the 2011 Integrated Accessibility Regulation, while helpful, are widely regarded as insufficient to meet this goal.

Part X of our brief to the Moran AODA Independent Review details that your Ministry’s efforts on expanding employment for persons with disabilities, particularly in the private sector, have been too slow. Action on this front was promised one and a half years ago, in the February 2013 Throne Speech. Yet it wasn’t until a full year after that, in February 2014, that we learned that your Ministry was just then merely setting up and advisory council to offer ideas by the end of 2014 on how to expand employment opportunities for persons with disabilities. We have voiced concern both because that council was given an excessively long time to report, and because this re-invents a policy wheel that has been invented over and over. We believe it is time for immediate and concrete action, not more advisory councils and reports.

We strongly urge you, your deputy minister and other leading Ministry officials to mainstream the message of disability accessibility in speeches and presentations to business and other audiences. This should not be limited to events that are focused on accessibility. It should be embedded throughout the public messaging that your Ministry delivers face-to-face here and abroad.

Part X of our brief recommends actions that are all great for Ontario’s economy. Your Government commissioned a study into the costs and benefits of making Ontario disability accessible. The Martin Prosperity Institute’s 2010 report concluded that making Ontario fully accessible is economically beneficial for Ontario, and that leaving barriers against persons with disabilities in place hurts Ontario’s economy. To learn more about the Martin Prosperity Institute’s 2010 report on the costs and benefits of making Ontario fully accessible to persons with disabilities, visit http://www.aodaalliance.org/strong-effective-aoda/06232010.asp

Our proposals would also help fulfill one of your Government’s important 2011 election commitments to Ontarians with disabilities. In the 2011 election, former Premier McGuinty committed that your government is incorporating disability accessibility considerations in all major government decisions. In his August 19, 2011 letter to us, he wrote:

“We are integrating accessibility as a fundamental principle when it comes to making vital decisions that affect the daily lives of Ontarians.”

5. Ensuring that the 2015 Toronto Pan/ParaPan American Games Leave Behind a Substantial Legacy of Disability Accessibility

Next year, Toronto will host the Pan/ParaPan American Games. The Government is spending millions on the 2015 Toronto Games. It justifies this because the 2015 Games will bring Ontario substantial economic benefits. Some 250,000 people are expected to come to attend the Games.

For the past year, we have unsuccessfully pressed the Government to ensure that the 2015 Games have a significant and strong legacy of accessibility for persons with disabilities. The “legacy” comprises the long-term benefits to Ontario that will be left behind from the large public investment in the 2015 Games. In contrast, the recent Olympics in London England and Vancouver each included planning in advance for a lasting disability accessibility legacy.

The Toronto 2015 Pan/ParaPan American Games take place at the halfway point between 2005, when the AODA was enacted, and 2025, when Ontario must achieve full accessibility. Depending on whether the Ontario Government changes course now, these Games will either show the world that Ontario is on schedule for full accessibility, by being at least halfway there (with plans to ensure we will finish that journey on time), or it will show Ontario still dragging behind schedule, despite the Premier’s commitments.

Further demonstrating the need for this area to be a priority for you, in your predecessor Dr. Eric Hoskins’ December 3, 2013 statement in the Legislature to mark the International Day for People with Disabilities, the Government committed:

“Ontario will also have an opportunity to demonstrate how much we’ve accomplished in building an accessible province when we welcome the world to the Pan Am/ParaPan Am Games in 2015. That year, we will also be celebrating the 10th anniversary of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act. We will have a real opportunity for the gamesin fact, the first fully accessible gamesto leave a lasting legacy when it comes to a more accessible province. We will seize that opportunity.”

Despite this, one year ago, on August 28, 2013, the Government held a news conference to unveil its planned legacy for the 2015 Games. At that carefully scripted event, not a word was said by the Cabinet Minister responsible for the Games about improving long-term accessibility for people with disabilities.

The Government has referred to a legacy of accessible sports facilities. Any accessibility legacy must go much further, to benefit a wide range of people with disabilities, not just the important needs of those people with disabilities who engage in sporting activities.

It should apply to all infrastructure, not just sports infrastructure. For example, with the expected influx of tourists for these Games, including tourists with disabilities, Ontario needs to ensure a substantial legacy of accessible tourism services and accommodations for people with disabilities, of public transit, taxis, other transportation services, hotels, restaurants, entertainment, public venues, sidewalks, all public information and communication including electronic infrastructure and digital information, and other public services and facilities.

This gap in the 2015 Games’ announced legacy plans is all the more troubling, since two years ago, the Accessibility Directorate of Ontario was commendably trying to get the Government to adopt an effective accessibility legacy. Your Ministry’s 2012 AODA s. 40 annual report stated:

“This past year we began working closely with the Pan/Parapan Am Games Secretariat and Toronto 2015 to make sure the Games meet all accessibility standards that will be in place by 2015 and to make sure accessibility is a key legacy of this world event.”

On October 1, 2013, to fill the gap in Government action, we made public our own proposal for a comprehensive disability accessibility legacy for the Games. It is available at http://www.aodaalliance.org/strong-effective-aoda/10012013.asp

We gather that some initiatives are now underway to produce some kind of limited disability accessibility legacy. However, as far as we have been able to learn, the public transit to the Games sites are not assured to be accessible. Ample tourism venues such as restaurants and hotels, are not assured to be accessible.

The 2015 Games offer a wonderful way to use public spending to leverage the private sector to produce greater accessibility, at no added cost to the taxpayer. However, action to achieve this is overdue.

Recently the 2015 ParaPan American Games released and heavily publicized a dramatic video about the 2015 ParaPan American Games entitled “Are You Ready?” This is profoundly ironic. Sadly, Ontario is clearly not ready to welcome tourists with disabilities. Ontario is not ready to ensure an effective disability accessibility legacy for the 2015 Games. That video does not address anything about Ontario’s plans or lack of plans for an accessibility legacy for the 2015 Games. That video, with audio description, can be viewed at http://youtu.be/hYCeOafTeuk

Your Ministry is in an excellent position to help ensure that the 2015 Games leave behind an impressive legacy of increased disability accessibility. We provided a plan. The Accessibility Directorate of Ontario has the required mission, mandate and expertise. Part VII of our brief to the Moran AODA Independent Review gives you all the background you need on this issue.

6. Launching an Effective Public Education Campaign on Disability Accessibility and the AODA’s Requirements

We urge you to now launch a major public education blitz on disability accessibility, the AODA’s requirements, and the tools available to help obligated organizations to comply. This should include, among many other efforts, supporting speeches by Cabinet Ministers and other members of the Legislature to the public, on the benefits and importance of removing and preventing barriers against persons with disabilities and tools the Government developed to help obligated organizations. The 2010 Charles Beer Independent Review of the AODA found a pressing need for substantially more public education on the AODA and on removing and preventing barriers against persons with disabilities. You and your caucus colleagues are well-positioned to spearhead this.

Part VI of our brief to the Moran AODA Independent Review explains what the Government has done to date on this score, why the Government is falling short, and what needs to be done. To date, your Government has been very low-key and minimally visible on this. Far too many obligated organizations don’t even know about your Government’s free AODA guides and tools posted on the internet, or even about the very existence of some or all of the accessibility standards enacted to date.

7. Promptly Making Public and Responding to the Forthcoming Report of the Moran AODA Independent Review

In September 2013, the Government appointed Dean Mayo Moran to conduct an Independent Review of the effectiveness of the AODA’s implementation and enforcement. Dean Moran said last spring that she was aiming to submit her report to the Government by this October.

We urge your Ministry to immediately table that report in the Legislature and make it public. We also urge your Government to promptly review and respond to that report, once it is received.

Ontario cannot afford any further delays in getting on schedule for full accessibility. In February 2010, the final report of the first AODA Independent Review was submitted to the Government by Charles Beer. The Government did not make it public until May 31, 2010, over three months later. After that, the Government did not make any fulsome response to the Charles Beer report for another two or three months, until August 2010. It took the Government another two and a half years to implement some of the Beer Report’s recommendations. Even then, some of that Report’s recommendations have never received a public Government response.

Compounding this, the Government did not appoint Dean Moran’s Independent Review by the legally-mandatory deadline of May 31, 2013. It delayed fulfilling that duty until over three months past that deadline.

We would also appreciate your Government now providing answers to the substantive questions that we presented to your predecessor, Dr. Eric Hoskins, in our May 2, 2014 letter to him. In that letter, we set out a series of important questions regarding the AODA’s implementation and enforcement. We had wanted readily-available Government information to assist us as we prepared our brief for the Moran AODA Independent Review. Our requests concerned:

a) the Government’s overdue choice of which accessibility standards to develop next under the AODA. b) the Government’s promised effective enforcement of the AODA.
c) how much money the Government gave the Accessibility Directorate of Ontario for the past year, and how much it spent.
d) what the Government has done to integrate disability accessibility into all programs at the Economic Development, Trade and Employment Ministry.
e) what the Government has done to encourage the private sector to produce goods and services that are disability-accessible.
f) what the Government has done to increase employment of persons with disabilities.
g) what the Government will do to ensure a lasting and strong disability accessibility legacy for the 2015 Toronto Pan/ParaPan American Games.

Hours after we wrote that letter, the Ontario election was announced. Dr. Hoskins or one of his aides tweeted us to the effect that because the election was underway, it would be for the Ministry to answer that letter. The deputy minister later advised us to the effect that an answer would await the end of the election. To date we have not received an answer to our inquiries. The AODA Alliance’s May 2, 2014 letter to the Economic Development, Trade and Employment Minister is available at http://www.aodaalliance.org/strong-effective-aoda/05022014.asp

We thank you for your August 8, 2014 letter, acknowledging that we had made those inquiries. In your letter, you note that we have now submitted our brief to the Moran AODA Independent Review. We wish to emphasize that we still need, and again request, answers to our May 2, 2014 letter to Dr. Hoskins. That information is important to us in our ongoing advocacy efforts. It will of course also be important to Dean Moran as she prepares her final report to the Government. As well, you, as the new Minister, and the Premier’s Office, will no doubt want and need that same information as you embark on implementing and enforcing the AODA, and keeping the Premier’s promises to Ontarians with disabilities.

We look forward to working together with you on these priorities. We are always available to you and your Government to offer practical, affordable and constructive ideas, and a candid assessment of how things are going.

We will be writing the Premier and other key ministers to highlight accessibility issues that they need to directly address. Ontarians with disabilities ask you to be their champion at the Cabinet table, to ensure that our concerns are not lost in the press of Government business.

We welcome the chance to do whatever we can to assist.

Sincerely,

David Lepofsky CM, O.Ont.
Chair
Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance

cc:
Premier Kathleen Wynne, email premier@ontario.ca
Wendy Tilford, Deputy Minister of Economic Development, Employment and Infrastructure, email: wendy.tilford@ontario.ca Drew Fagan, Deputy Minister of Infrastructure, email drew.fagan@ontario.ca
Giles Gherson, Deputy Minister Designate of Economic Development, Employment and Infrastructure email Giles.gherson@Ontario.ca
Ann Hoy, Assistant Deputy Minister for the Accessibility Directorate, email ann.hoy@ontario.ca

Text of Minister Brad Duguid’s August 8, 2014 Letter to the AODA Alliance

Ministry of Economic Development, Employment and Infrastructure Office of the Minister
8th Floor, Hearst Block
900 Bay Street
Toronto ON M7A 2E1
Telephone: 416-325-6900
Facsimile: 416-325-6918

Mr. David Lepofsky
Chair
Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance
1929 Bayview Avenue
Toronto, Ontario
M4G 3E8

Dear Mr. Lepofsky:

I am writing to you in response to your May 2, 2014 letter to my predecessor, Minister Hoskins.

I was appointed as Minister of Economic Development, Employment and Infrastructure on
June 24, and I am excited to take on this new portfolio. Accessibility is important to our economy and to our communities, and I look forward to learning more about the issues.
I recall our meeting to discuss accessibility issues in the education sector when I was the Minister for Training, Colleges and Universities.

In your letter, you asked for information in order to respond to the Independent Review of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, 2005. I understand that you did submit a response by the deadline of June 30. Thank you for contributing.

Your letter outlines a number of other recommendations for our work going forward.
I thank you for taking the time to write, and I look forward to meeting with you soon to discuss this important work.

Sincerely,

Original signed by

Brad Duguid
Minister

c: Premier Kathleen Wynne
Wendy Tilford, Deputy Minister of Economic Development, Trade and Employment Ann Hoy, Assistant Deputy Minister, Accessibility Directorate of Ontario Dean Mayo Moran, University of Toronto Faculty of Law